Sunday, July 12, 2009

Y3W - A Couple of Days Late (Long)

Remembering a Grandfather: William Franklin Cowherd November 28, 1915 - July 5, 2009

As some of you may know, my grandfather passed away on Sunday, July 5th 2009. He was 93 years old and lived a long life. I wanted to post a blog about my week remembering a great granddad. This week was a pretty crazy week as it was an emotional rollercoster for me.

I first heard the news from my brother over the phone as Allison and I were driving back down the mountain after all our Independence Day festivities. We had been in the NC mountains since Thursday and were pretty much cutoff from all society as we didn't turn the t.v. on and cell phone reception was terrible at best. We were celebrating life and our freedom all weekend long and I was hit by an emotional truck when I heard the news. You probably know that I don't deal with grief very well. I do "happy" very well but don't know what to do when I'm sad. I was kind of shocked when I heard the news. I don't know, maybe I figured Granddad would be around forever. I mean, he survived WWII, two heart surgeries and had out lived his two loves of his life.

Granddad was my Dad's dad and I always had great memories whenever we were together. I remember the great times with Granddad and Grandmom Eloise in the Circle Drive house in Martinsburg, WV. I remember that great basement, back patio, the pool across the street and all the great cooking! We would always make biscuits together as this was something that the Cowherd family is know for liking. I also remember Granddad and Polly always making sure that we were having fun. I remember our millennium New Years celebration and I will always remember that bar he carried with him with the scotch and Bloody Mary's.

After I took the news in briefly, I called my dad to see what plans had been arranged and to see how he was holding up. Dad told me that the memorial service was going to be held on Thursday and I was racking my brain about how I could get up to VA around my work schedule. Mere was planning on driving up Wednesday morning and at first I was thinking that this would be my only option but I needed to be back to work on Friday. This was not going to work and I became sad that I couldn't make it. But, I knew I couldn't miss this memorial service. I knew that I couldn't miss it because I felt it pulling at me deep in my stomach. I did some research and found a flight going to D.C. Dulles airport on Wednesday evening and returning on Thursday evening. My dad understood that it was important for me to be able to attend the memorial service and was awesome not only to get the tickets but to also make the 50 mile drive with Mary Ellen both ways to pick me up and drop me off. Unfortunately, with the short notice and Allison's lack of PTO for the rest of this year, Allison and Parker were not able to make the trip.

The service on Thursday was at Grace Lutheran Church in Winchester, VA. Ironically, the pastor of this church, pastor Utts, knew Allison's uncle Johnny very well when they attended seminary together. I spoke with him a little bit about the Yost family and then got to see my family as we started to gather in a back room. It was great to see all the family again. I wish we didn't live so far apart as I want to make it a habit to get together more often. We all processed to the sanctuary for the service. Up front was a table set up with flowers, an American flag in a triangle flag frame, a blue US military urn and a picture of Grandad in his uniform that made him look powerful. The picture looked like a Hollywood picture, black and white and just really captured a great glimpse of who he was. The service was a traditional service and dad and my uncle Robin spoke about their memories. It was great to hear their memories and brought back a lot of mine as well. We obviously were sad but also were happy to be celebrating a long life. My cousin Erin and I also shared a laugh in the middle when I had to swat a fly that was in my face, lol. After the service, many people who knew Granddad came up and shook the family's hands and told stories of how they knew him. It was cool to hear how he impacted so many people.

The family then drove over the the Wayside Inn, the oldest continuously operating inn in America, and had a great setting to remember Granddad even more. We had a room setup with tables and a screen to view a great DVD that Jody and Sarah put together. Now this room wasn't just any old room, it was the old slave kitchen. It was a really cool setting with a very enthusiastic bartender. We all indulged his services throughout the night. Again, it was great to see all the family together and we discussed having a "Parker meets the rest of the Cowherds" party soon. We sat down for dinner which was very tasty. I had the beef and for dessert a key lime cheesecake fit the bill. Now for the emotional part...

As I mentioned earlier Jody and Sarah put together a DVD of pictures and captions that told Granddad's life story. It was great to see him as a boy and then every stage after as the Cowherd family grew and lived life. After the DVD, the best part of the night occurred. As I also mentioned earlier, Granddad always had his bar with him. It was a small case that carried his scotch in and some glasses. In his memory, we were all handed a shot glass with scotch. After each person told their memory or story of Granddad, they would take the shot. Diron started off and made us all appreciate the man Granddad was. We also heard Granddad's favorite story "Petey the Snake". It was so good to hear all those stories and memories and the worst part was that I had to leave early to catch my flight back home. I am so glad that I was able to be there and remember Granddad in that way. It really helped me and I know it helped Dad and the rest of the family. Granddad was a brother, father, grandfather and just recently a great grandfather. Granddad once wrote in his journal that he wanted to be remembered as honest, fair minded, friendly, jovial, generous and God fearing. He will be and more. Love ya Granddad and I will always remember you.


  1. Jon,

    That was very moving - thanks for sharing so much of what happened. I'm really sorry I couldn't make it, but your story warmed my heart.


  2. Jon, I'm so sorry about your granddad. Your tribute was special. Parker is a doll & growing up so quickly. I hope they're notbeating you up too bad at work. Take care & hi to Allison.
    Melissa Courtney



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